Still going w/ "trash" machines 3 yrs on- a commentary on privilege and work
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  1. #1
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    Default Still going w/ "trash" machines 3 yrs on- a commentary on privilege and work

    When I quit my old job, I had a trashy American made mill, 3/4 the size of the earliest Bridgeport. I had an old American Logan toolroom lathe, and my surface grinder was a Sanford benchtop unit that the US Government threw away and I was given.

    My welder was a Linde AC/DC transformer machine. I bought a Linde High Frequency Arc Stabilizer box(similar to what was later sold by Century and Craftsman), and that was how I did tig welding.

    I knew farmers, and I made it known I was open for business. If someone came in, they usually balked at $45 an hour for labor, but I explained that if took 15 minutes- I wasn't charging them an hour. Construction and heavy equipment guys came in and found out about me too.

    Well, within a month of being open, all three of the local competitors(in their minds) stopped by and there was a common thread to their assessment of my equipment: "Your equipment is shit" or "Your equipment is trash".

    Over time, I upgraded to an Alliant 12x48 milling machine, a South Bend 14" lathe, a Taiwanese 18" copy of a Turnado type lathe, a Husky Taiwanese copy of a Clausing vertical, a pair of Hardinge TM-UM's, a bitch lathe- a 14" Grizzly I repaired to learn how to repair a lathe and get it into making good tolerances, a T&C Grinder, and a pair of Surface Grinders. And 50 ton Hydraulic press I built from plans and suggestions on here.

    I fought and fought and fought to get 3ph power, I tried offering to pay an arm and a leg, fought some more, and still didn't get 3 phase. I wired my block building that my grandfather poured and laid in in 1959 and put in RPC's and static(box type) phase converters, and then I could use my machines.

    I bought tooling where ever I could. If I could sharpen a bucket of HSS mills that another shop wanted scrap price for, I did. Same for lathe tool bits.

    I went to yard sales, garage sales, I made several trips to Dayton OH and further north to get equipment for decent prices.

    It's three years later, and the guys who cussed me, and especially the guy who insinuated he might come back and burn down my building- they're all gone.

    They had $500,000 to $1.5 million buildings alone to service a county that has 10,000 residents when things are running wide open in the summer. The larger tri-state area is lucky to have 65,000 people in summer, and most won't need machine work. There is hardly any manufacturing left.


    I ran into the guy who had $1.5 million in his building and what was reported to be $900,000 in used CNC equipment. I've always been friendly and polite to all those guys, but I got a cussing from one end of the block to the other.

    I actually got cursed at because according to him, I had no respect for the other owners, by being available 7 days a week, and working whenever and however long a job took. I got cursed because I took jobs where larger machining facilities near bigger cities needed 3 or 5 or 15 units made, and my competitors tried to gouge and get the companies to take 100 units when they only wanted 3 or 5.

    I got cursed for charging for $45 an hour but not charging a multi-hour minimum, and not charging even a one hour minimum.

    In a lot of cases, when I needed some specialized tooling, I worked deals with companies and business owners where they'd buy the supplies, consumables, tools, and the tooling and I'd do the job to get to keep all the goodies. The companies took it as a tax write off and then they came back to me with more work because they knew I had the equipment and I'd proven I could be an odd leg artist and do what they needed.

    I never told anyone to just throw away what they brought me to work on, I never called it trash or junk, I'd only advise replacement if it was something made in China where replacement cost was so much cheaper than attempting a repair.

    I always "Yes boss" "Sure boss" "Thank you boss" and I stepped and fetched it for any customer that came in, so long as they paid on time, no matter how big an ass some would behave as.

    If they needed it, and I could make extra money for "rush jobs" and "over-time"- ie staying open after posted hours, I'd be up until 4am the next morning working on the part, I'd nap to 6am, get a ride to where ever it needed installed or fitted, I'd do the fit/install, give explicit care and feeding instructions, and post a note on the door to call for service, I am here, and then I'd nap until 10am or until someone called who needed work.

    I made a mobile shop on the back a junkyard flatbed trailer and I'd work at racetracks fabbing parts. I went to shooting events, I went to model plane fly-ins with the mobile shop, I went to real plane fly-ins with the mobile shop.

    I have maybe 45% of the hair I had 6 years ago. A good deal of the hair I have is going grey at 32 years of age.

    I work on the farm still, help my parents, take them to doctor appointments, I repair everything imaginable for them.

    3 years later, winter is still a rough time, with slow business, but the rest of the year I am making it, I am staying busy, money that comes in goes into savings for retirement, savings for business improvements, and into the business to keep it tooled, equipment repaired, and the needs of the shop met.

    I talk to kids getting 4 year engineering degrees, and I am not knocking education in general here because I have a terminal degree in my old field- but I ask them- what are you going to do ? They want to work for themselves, in a job where they can relax. What kind of job is that ? "Oh, I think I want to build practical hovercraft. Or a hoverboard."

    I had a guy 5 years younger than me, out of the Navy, supposedly trained as a machinist, come ask me for a job. I could actually use the help, so I interviewed him, and he told me he refused to work more than 4 days out of the normal 5 business day week, and that 8am to 5pm with lunch on his own time was unacceptable. He also immediately wanted me to cover his Obamacare policy, his wife's(who doesn't work- she paints), and he wanted a subsidy so he could drive his Dodge 3500 Cummins diesel guzzler.

    When I explained to him what I was willing to offer and how I did things, he laughed at me, and told me it was my loss, "DUDE".

    When I went into the Courthouse Annex to pay property taxes on the farm's buildings, I notice him and his wife in the line to pick up the food stamps and government cheese. And maybe they need it and maybe it should be available to them- I don't want to judge. I don't want anyone judging me.

    But as I sit here thinking about the day I spent lifting an Allis Chalmers trackloader out of the mud, removing enough of the final drive to access the drive system, and then the time to fit and modify the gears that the owner incorrectly purchased to save a little money, I realize that I am extremely lucky that I was not raised to believe that I was owed anything by anyone.

    I feel lucky that I do not see the world as a place that I an owed and entitled something without working for it.

    I honestly think that I will die pretty young, and I may die on the job, but I feel like I am free, I feel like I control my own destiny doing this for myself, and I feel like that freedom to succeed or fail is the most important thing I've ever earned in my life.

    I am not sure what the point of this is, other than I wanted to put it out there, and I wanted to thank all of you who have helped me on here over the years by sharing your time, your knowledge, and your points of view.

    I've always believed that if I ask for advice, I shouldn't just be asking for enabling or asking for someone to confirm my pre-existing notions. I've learned so much by trying the things that have been shared, whether it was the direction I was leaning towards originally or not, and I've grown a lot by reading and implementing and experimenting with the new things I've been introduced to, that were completely alien to me, and outside of my comfort zone.

    Thanks to Milacron. Thanks to the crusty old fucks who get up in the morning taking shit from no one and going to sleep not backing down a damn bit. Thanks to the kindly old timers who will share their trade secrets and experiences and their good times and bad times. Thanks to the young guys who are like me and just wanting to learn. Thanks even to the people who just want someone to confirm their pre-existing notions and don't want to listen to other ideas, because it reminds me to keep my mind open. Thanks to the wise and the wise asses, too...

    Thanks to the world and my customers for 3 years. I hope I am still here in 3 more years, and then maybe if I keep playing my cards right, I might make it to 70 even, and see some form of retirement and some use from this money I'm saving.

    I see this as the privilege I've been lucky enough to earn thus far.

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  3. #2
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    Geardoc,

    A wonderful story. I think you will do well. You might think about easing up your shop rate just a bit. Good work done in a timely manner deserves to be well paid.

    Paul

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    Quote Originally Posted by geardoc View Post
    Well, within a month of being open, all three of the local competitors(in their minds) stopped by and there was a common thread to their assessment of my equipment: "Your equipment is shit" or "Your equipment is trash".
    To which the proper reply is, "Wow, thanks! It is really nice to get affirmation of my skills."

    When/if they ask what you mean, the answer is, "Well, since I can hit 10ths with no problem with this equipment, which you have assessed as trash, it must mean something good about my skills, right?"

    Okay, probably not a way to win friends and influence enemies ...

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    If you ever make it to this coast, I'll buy the beer.

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    Good for you,you are not alone.Everyone that I know who has been successful in life has put in the time and work necessary.Your start up is the worst part and you are moving on to the next plateau.It is very important that you make some time for yourself.The guy that applied for work with you will never be successful with his attitude and will probably never experience self satisfaction because of a job well done.Unfortunately that type seems to be a majority in the youth today.Stay versatile,don't sell your skills to cheap and watch for burn-out(again make some time for yourself).

  7. #6
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    Wow, great story. Keep it up!

    John

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  9. #7
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    You will do well. Nice to hear about someone that believes in working for a living making it come together. Like aspp said, if you ever come to So Cal, I'll buy the beer.

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    That was good to read, I like ''nice stories'' keep on keeping on.

    Or as we say over here ''keep you a troshin bor''

    If you ever make it to my part of the world, I'll stand you a beer.

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  13. #9
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    I'm thinking how well you'd fit in with the 'howto piss people off' thread

    Why is it that the best engineers seem to come over as bunch of grouchy old b*****ds?

    Good luck with the business

    Boris

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    Quote Originally Posted by geardoc View Post

    But as I sit here thinking about the day I spent lifting an Allis Chalmers trackloader out of the mud, removing enough of the final drive to access the drive system, and then the time to fit and modify the gears that the owner incorrectly purchased to save a little money, I realize that I am extremely lucky that I was not raised to believe that I was owed anything by anyone.
    After several years of dooing that frequently...

    Quote Originally Posted by geardoc View Post
    I had a guy 5 years younger than me, out of the Navy, supposedly trained as a machinist, come ask me for a job. I could actually use the help, so I interviewed him, and he told me he refused to work more than 4 days out of the normal 5 business day week, and that 8am to 5pm with lunch on his own time was unacceptable. He also immediately wanted me to cover his Obamacare policy, his wife's(who doesn't work- she paints), and he wanted a subsidy so he could drive his Dodge 3500 Cummins diesel guzzler.

    When I explained to him what I was willing to offer and how I did things, he laughed at me, and told me it was my loss, "DUDE".

    When I went into the Courthouse Annex to pay property taxes on the farm's buildings, I notice him and his wife in the line to pick up the food stamps and government cheese. And maybe they need it and maybe it should be available to them- I don't want to judge. I don't want anyone judging me.


    ... this here ^^^ .... yeah - that'll take care of it'self soon enough.


    Quote Originally Posted by Winston Churchill

    “Show me a young Conservative and I'll show you someone with no heart.
    Show me an old Liberal and I'll show you someone with no brains.”




    Is that what the military spits out these days?




    ---------------------

    Hey hey, the working man, the working man like me
    I ain't never been on welfare, that's one place I won't be
    Cause I'll be working long as my two hands are fit to use
    I drink a little beer in a tavern
    Sing a little bit of these working man blues
    Ox
    Last edited by Ox; 06-14-2014 at 02:07 PM. Reason: Trying to add clarity/Werkin' Mans Blues

  16. #11
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    Is that what the military spits out these days?
    Perhaps the Navy.....

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  18. #12
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    Good story, about you. Glad you wrote it.

    Stan-

  19. #13
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    Thanks for spending the time to right the story.

  20. #14
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    Geardoc, you are a working-class hero.

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  22. #15
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    That's exactly the work that I *enjoy* doing. I just kicked the neighbors skid loader out. Steering linkage had egg shaped holes, it's an obsolete part and it's buried. I cut the panel it was on to access it, then welded it back in. Two hours of work...most of which was spent getting the old part out. Would have cost him at least $400 if they could have found a used replacement panel, and then probably ten hours of labor to swap it out.

    Farmers are cheap, but they are honest...and they will advertise your business for you!

    Please though, do tell more about your mobile shop. I like oddball work.

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    If ya can, a great machine that I have started using a lot is a shape burning torch. I've got a line follower at the fab shop I work at, but I've got a handful of machine torches at home. I'm just going to set one up on a little x-y table with some stepper motors. I'm pretty damn excited about it. I never knew how useful it is!

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  25. #17
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    I do a bit of work with the navy, I get quite a few that come off their 4 year contract looking for work. I did try one guy out, and it didn't work out. Some days he would show up without is brain other days he was a pretty good worker. But what I have found is the people that you want to higher either stay in the service or have found a really great job with a large company that posiably consults with the navy.

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    " It's not the machine, it's the man "

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  28. #19
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    To the OP, that is the basic story of how sucess and respect are earned! ! Many kudos for your accomplishments, and don't let anyone talk you out of them or rob you of them. With that attitude you will never starve. The whole secret of a successful business is to keep your customers happy and coming back for more. (If they are happy and like you, they will spread the word for you!) According to your original post, you are doing it the right way!

    Keep it up and don't forget to tell the nay-sayers that put you down to go pound sand up their asses! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

    Frank

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  30. #20
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    Nice.

    When I taught the NTMA Journeyman Program I made arrangements to use one of the local high school machine shops for a week. All the manual mills and lathes were of WWII era and loose as a goose. Mind you these guys were all suppose to be in their third year of the journey program. The first task was to turn .750 - 20 UNEF thread x 1 inch long. Out of 30 people only two were capable of doing it. To me, in order for them to get to this 3rd year that I was teaching, all should have been able to do it.

    With the help of the two who could do it and myself, it took us the whole week to get everyone able to make the thread. It was so pathetic.

    Being a machinist is an art... Geardoc you are an artist.

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